No matter how many times you've delivered a speech, you've never delivered the same exact speech twice. That's because no two audiences are exactly the same; no two venues are exactly the same; and no two moments in time are ever the same. There are always differences, however slight, between one presentation and another.

As a professional speaker who speaks around the world, I've had the pleasure of speaking to audiences of thousands, as well as intimate gatherings. Neither is better than the other -- each is simply different, no matter how many times you've delivered your speech.

Whether you're speaking to thousands of people from a big stage, or a small group of fifty people in a meeting room, there is not a one-size-fits-all approach to giving a talk. There are, however, certain things to remember to help ensure success. Whether it's a large venue or small one, the key to giving an effective presentation is to adapt your delivery to meet the audience's needs. Here's how.

Audience interaction

Encouraging audience participation is not difficult if you know how to work the room. Here's what I mean: let's say I'm speaking to a room of 50 people. I can ask questions of individuals in that small gathering and get responses very easily. I might ask, "Who can give me an example of xyz?" and I can rely on getting information from audience members fairly quickly, on the fly. I can also say, "By show of hands, how many of you feel this way and how many of you feel that way?" I can easily get the feedback.

But if I'm doing that in a room of 300 people, then I probably can't ask questions to everyone in the room because, when dealing with hundreds of people, it's harder to do. When asking the question of thousands of people, I tend to ask questions like, "By applause, who has made a phone call like that?" In a space with that many people, I can't necessarily see individual hands, but I can hear applause.

To garner the most effective response, the key is to ask questions of people that can easily be answered. If you want a certain response, don't ask open-ended, subjective questions. If you ask, "How many of you agree with this statement?" your audience might not know whether they are supposed to raise a hand, or shout a statistical value. Give your audience step by step instruction; don't make them take a leap of faith. Tell them exactly what you'd like them to do. Oh, and if you ask them to stand or close their eyes, be sure to remember to tell them to resume their prior position. 

Movement

Staging is the term that applies to how to move around the stage or room. Staging may be less important if you are speaking in a small room or in a small setting where you don't have a lot of room. Nonetheless, you want to effectively use whatever space you have. 

In a small room you don't want to stand still and face one side of the room, or you risk ignoring the other half of the room. You want to make sure you're using the stage to maximum effect.

In contrast, you may think that being on a stage in a room with thousands of people will require you to cover that much more space but, actually, the opposite is true. In a room with thousands of people, you may want to minimize your movements and be more intentional with your pauses or facial expressions. That's because, in large venues, speakers are almost always projected onto a screen with IMAG, or image magnification. With image magnification, the majority of the audience is watching the speaker on a large screen. The cameras can easily get close-ups of facial expressions which means everyone can see something as slight as, say, a raised eyebrow. Therefore, your movements, however small, can have a big impact.

Physical movement

Different speakers excel in different situations. The best speakers know how to engage audiences in different environments.

A great example of this is Geoff Ramm, a keynote speaker from the UK who spoke at this year's National Speakers Association's main event. Some of Geoff's most clever and funniest moments during his speech were pauses and facial expressions that summed up the situation he was emphasizing. He had the audience captivated because he knew how to use his facial expressions and physical movements to maximum effect. Without image magnification he probably would have performed differently.

Conclusion

Whether you are speaking to thousands of people in a large convention center or speaking to a small group in a conference room, your facial expressions, physical movements and how you interact with an audience are all important to an amazing talk. If you know how to adjust your delivery to fit the needs of the audience, you will be sure to have success.

Published on: Aug 30, 2018